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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Bound for Oregon, Utah, California and Texas

Mexican Losses

Meanwhile, Texas had gained independence from Mexico which allowed annexation by the United States; this occurred in December of 1845. War with Mexico was inevitable, and hostilities began in 1846. Settlers in California, long seeking to break away from Mexican rule, proclaimed themselves a republic. Congress ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and war with Mexico ended. Mexico ceded a large area by which the United States acquired Texas and California and areas north. In 1853, by means of the Gadsden Purchase, Mexico ceded to the United States a strip of land along the present-day southern border of Arizona and New Mexico; this strip provided part of a desired railroad route to the Pacific Ocean.

Later Gold Rushes and Mineral Attractions

Some of the California “Forty-Niners” had made fortunes, but most were disappointed. Refusing to admit defeat, prospectors explored the valleys and slopes of the mountainous regions between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains. There were smaller gold fields near the California field, one in Nevada as early as 1849. Most important of the gold finds were on the Colorado River near the mouth of the Gila, also those south of Tucson. Other sites attracted miners to Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

In 1859 prospectors discovered gold near Pikes Peak in the unorganized territory of Colorado. More than 100,000 “Fifty-Niners” rushed in to stake their claims. Caravans of wagons crossed the plains with the slogan “Pikes Peak or bust” lettered on the white canvas. Others crossed the plains on foot, sometimes pulling handcarts behind them. Colorado had special appeal, coming on the heels of the Panic of 1857, but the boom was of short duration. Population declined, until the coming of the railroad in 1870 brought farmers into the area.

The Smoky Hill Road ran from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on the border of Missouri, south of the Oregon Trail through Kansas to Denver along the track of present Interstate 70. It was a dry sandy route, poorly marked, with no available food or water. It became a death trap for many attempting to use it as a shorter trail to the Pike’s Peak area in search of gold and silver in 1859.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States: Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website at We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.